WA Cabinet reshuffle: Amber-Jade Sanderson replaces Roger Cook as Health Minister – ABC News

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Roger Cook has been replaced as WA’s Health Minister as part of a significant Cabinet reshuffle announced by WA Premier Mark McGowan.

Amber-Jade Sanderson, who has served as Environment Minister since March, was announced as Mr Cook’s replacement, taking on the health and mental health portfolios.

Mr Cook will remain Deputy Premier and assume the tourism portfolio, as well as retaining his existing portfolios of state development, jobs and trade, commerce and science.

Mr McGowan said tourism and events would be a big focus in 2022 as part of the government’s plans to reconnect WA with the world.

Mr McGowan thanked Mr Cook for his work as health minister.

“He has done a very important portfolio for a very long period of time,” he said.

“Providing Roger with the opportunity to broaden and get a range of other experiences I think is good for him, and also reflects the fact that is a very tough portfolio.”

Amber-Jade Sanderson and Roger Cook at Parliament smiling
Amber-Jade Sanderson has been touted as a rising star among Labour insiders.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Mr McGowan denied the reshuffle represented a demotion for Mr Cook, who steered WA through the COVID-19 pandemic as Health Minister.

“Over the last two years with COVID, we have had one person acquire COVID in Western Australia and pass away,” the Premier said.

“It has been an extraordinary achievement that Roger Cook can take a lot of pride in achieving.”

It was understood that Mr Cook had hoped to take on the role of Treasurer after the March state election, but the Premier appointed himself Treasurer.

Asked why he had kept the Treasurer role, Mr McGowan said “I quite like being the Treasurer”.

Increasing pressure in key portfolio

Mr Cook has held the health portfolio since 2017 and prior to that was the shadow minister for health while in opposition.

Roger Cook watches a press conference.
Roger Cook has worked closely with WA Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson through the pandemic. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Mr Cook has come under increasing pressure over the past two years, as WA’s health system continued to struggle despite the lack of any COVID-19 in the community.

The health system had issues with ambulance ramping, understaffing and low staff morale.

Before the March election, Ms Sanderson received praise from the Premier for her role in delivering Western Australia’s Voluntary Assisted Dying laws. 

Amber-Jade Sanderson with Roger Cook and Mark McGowan smiling
Ms Sanderson with Mr Cook and Mr McGowan after the legislation passed WA Parliament in December, 2019.(James Carmody)

The third-term MP was first elected in 2013 and has been described as a rising star within Labor.

Ms Sanderson faces a difficult challenge ahead as the state prepares to ease its COVID-19 borders on February 5.

Despite being in her first year as a minister, the Premier said Ms Sanderson was up for the challenge.

“She is a very capable and talented person and very focused,” Mr McGowan said.

AMA keen to work with new health minister

Australian Medical Association WA branch president Mark Duncan-Smith welcomed Ms Sanderson’s appointment but said the fate of WA’s health system went far beyond individual ministers.

“I am happy to work with anyone that is motivated and talented and has a goal of creating a better health system for West Australians,” he said.

A man in a black suit speaks at a press conference
Dr Duncan-Smith says he looks forward to working with Ms Sanderson to improve the health system. (ABC News: James Carmody)

“It doesn’t matter how hard someone fights in a cabinet environment if the rest of cabinet isn’t willing to spend the money in health.

“I blame the whole of the McGowan Labor government for record [ambulance] ramping… cancellation of elective surgery when there is no COVID-19 [and the] inadequate capacity of the medical system and where we are now.”

Dr Duncan-Smith said he’d spoken to Ms Sanderson and expressed a desire “to work collaboratively with government to develop a better health care system for all West Australians.”

Under the reshuffle, no ministers left the cabinet.

Reece Whitby, who was elected in 2017, was handed the controversial environment and climate action portfolios.

Stephen Dawson will become the Minister for emergency services, innovation and ICT, medical research and volunteering.

David Templeman gained the new portfolio of international education, as well as sport and recreation.

Tony Buti added Aboriginal affairs, along with racing and gaming, to his portfolios.

John Carey added homelessness and the lands portfolios.

New WA Cabinet in full:

Hon Mark McGowan MLA
Premier; Treasurer; Public Sector Management; Federal-State Relations

Hon Roger Cook MLA
Deputy Premier; Minister for State Development, Jobs and Trade; Tourism; Commerce; Science

Hon Sue Ellery MLC
Education and Training

Hon Stephen Dawson MLC
Emergency Services; Innovation and ICT; Medical Research; Volunteering 

Hon Alannah MacTiernan MLC
Regional Development; Agriculture and Food; Hydrogen Industry

Hon David Templeman MLA
Culture and the Arts; Sport and Recreation; International Education; Heritage; 
Leader of the House

Hon John Quigley MLA
Attorney General; Electoral Affairs

Hon Paul Papalia MLA
Police; Road Safety; Defence Industry; Veterans Issues

Hon Bill Johnston MLA
Mines and Petroleum; Energy; Corrective Services; Industrial Relations

Hon Rita Saffioti MLA
Transport; Planning; Ports

Hon Tony Buti MLA
Finance; Racing and Gaming; Aboriginal Affairs; Citizenship and Multicultural Interests

Hon Simone McGurk MLA
Child Protection; Women’s Interests; Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence; Community Services

Hon Dave Kelly MLA
Water; Forestry; Youth

Hon Amber-Jade Sanderson MLA
Health; Mental Health

Hon John Carey MLA
Housing; Lands; Homelessness; Local Government

Hon Don Punch MLA
Disability Services; Fisheries; Seniors and Ageing; Small Business

Hon Reece Whitby MLA
Environment; Climate Action

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